Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Courage of the Progs

With all the horrific images and stories coming out of Gaza, it’s easy to overlook the true victims in this tragic story: progressive bloggers. Thankfully, Digby’s right-hand man, the courageous David Atkins, is here to shed some much needed light on the bombs of hateful comments being tossed their way.

Atkins’ piece is a response to criticisms that progressive bloggers have largely ignored the assault on Gaza. (While the assault was escalating this weekend, Atrios took to his blog to announce, “I Got Nothing To Say.") For Atkins, there are three reasons why progressive bloggers don’t want to get their hands dirty on this one. These reasons are neither accurate or legitimate, but they are unintentionally illuminating enough to rouse Fire Tom Friedman out of a pathetically long hibernation. So without further ado, here’s Atkin on why the progs are right to keep quiet:

1. Incoherent, hateful backlash. The fact is that it's impossible to say anything substantive about the Israel-Palestine conflict without being called a hateful anti-Semite, or a hateful bloodthirsty imperialist. Most hilarious is the notion that silence on the issue is caused by defense of the Administration, as if most of the progressive blogosphere had been somehow aggressive against the Bush Administration for failure to be concerned about the Palestinian people. If one examines the archives, one will see that most of the big sites from Atrios to DailyKos to TPM to Hullabaloo and the rest have largely refrained from commenting too much on the issue for years, long before Obama took office. That's in large part because nothing can be said about it without eliciting a horrifying deluge of asinine commentary that no other issue seems to generate. Especially for unpaid bloggers more concerned with climate change, the predations of the financial sector, the ongoing assault against the middle class and women's rights, etc., it's often not worth the headache of being called a vicious anti-semitic terrorist enabler and/or imperialist apartheid murderer--often for the exact same post. 

Really, Palestine – shut up about your dead kids. As Atkins so forcefully reminds us, the brave men and women who take to the internet several times a day to generate page views for their personal blogs and those of their employers have feelings, too. Do the people of Gaza know what it’s like to endure a “horrifying deluge of asinine commentary?” Have they ever been called “a vicious anti-semitic terrorist enabler and/or imperialist apartheid murderer--often for the exact same post?”

And as Atkins points out, it really is only “the Israel-Palestine conflict” that brings out this vulgarity on the internet. If only the commenters would be as restrained as they are when they discuss the recent election or immigration or marriage equality or anything having to do with non-Palestinian Muslims, I’m sure Atkins and co. would be happy to weigh in.

Easy mockery aside, Atkins does have one point. The idea that the prog blogs are keeping quiet because of who is in the Oval Office is demonstrably false. Those who are cowards today when it comes to calling out Israel for war crimes, apartheid, and occupation were cowards during the Bush years as well. But that's because it's party orthodoxy, not the presidency, that matters. Progressive bloggers didn't oppose Bush’s Israel/Palestine policies because the Democrats didn't.

Prog blogs have plenty to say on issues – and only on those issues -- where there are real (e.g. marriage equality) or perceived (e.g. climate change*) differences between the parties. But on Israel, the parties don’t even pretend to disagree (witness the Senate’s unanimous passage of a resolution written by AIPAC this morning) so there is simply no role for progressive bloggers to play. Maybe this is all just a long-winded way of saying progressive bloggers are Democratic mouthpieces. Not exactly news, I know. But it strikes me that by daring to talk about why progressive bloggers don’t dare to talk about Israel and Palestine, Atkins may have unintentionally exposed why the progressive blogosphere is so fucking harmful.

Atkins being Atkins, he lists two more reasons the progs don’t do Israel that range from horribly offensive to asinine. His next reason, “2) There are no good guys here,” got my hopes up, but it turns out he’s talking about Israel and Palestine, not the progressive blogosphere. There’s enough nauseating equivalence  between the occupiers and the occupied in this section to make you want to call Atkins “an imperialist apartheid murderer.” Do yourself a favor and skip it.

Atkins may save the best for last, though, when he writes, “3) There's nothing we can do about it. It makes sense to blog about things that we can theoretically do something about.” It may be news to you and me that cutting off subsidies for Israel’s war machine is something the United States can’t even do in theory, but we don’t get invited to the same DNC cocktail parties as Atkins. So maybe he’s right and progressive bloggers should focus on manageable, easily solvable problems, like climate change. They should have that one solved by next spring – just in time to sit out Israel’s next assault on Gaza.

*My favorite election season quote came from Matt Stoller, who wrote, "Partisans may enjoy Mitt Romney’s corrupt denial of man-made global warming, but nature doesn’t distinguish between Obama’s cynical lack of action and Romney’s cynical denial of reality. We simply do not have time for this nonsense anymore."